Jésula belongs to Chemen Lavi Miyò (CLM), or the Path to a Better Life. CLM reaches out to ultra-poor families in rural Haiti. It provides assets, a small cash stipend, education and the support of a case manager over the course of 18 months to develop members’ capacity and confidence.
Jésula was born in 1973, in Tèblanch, a savanna located a couple of miles to the northeast of Mirebalais, just off the main road to Hinche. She’s from an extremely poor family that was not able to send her to school. Like her four brothers and sisters, she stayed at home, working in the fields and doing household chores. At fifteen, she got pregnant and decided to leave home with Solon Marcelus, the father of her child. At the time, she didn’t really know what it meant for her to be pregnant.
Because she came from an extremely poor family, she and her husband had nothing. They built a little straw roofed house close to her family’s, and there she gave birth to eight children: two boys, and six girls. Unfortunately, her husband was lazy. So she was the one who had to work to feed the entire family and pay to send the children to school.
To do so, she got into business, even without any stable capital. She had never had much of her own capital to start with. She would borrow money in the market itself to buy and then resell anything she could find. She would take the profit she made home and give the capital back to her creditors at the end of the day. She managed to earn enough that way to pay school fees for some of her children. She even bought a couple of goats.
Unfortunately, two of her daughters became sick. “When I asked my husband to help me pay for the treatment they needed, he told me to let them die.” Jésula sold all she had to save her girls. “That was the end of my relationship with him. I couldn’t stand his abuse any more. He would beat me. He wouldn’t do any work.” Having sold what little she had, she couldn’t pay anymore for her kids’ school.
She decided to move forward with a new partner, Jean Louis-Jacques, who already had his own family. She had one additional kid with him, but they broke up a few years later. Now, her youngest child is five years old.
When CLM began selecting members in Tèblanch, Jésula was accustomed to spending as much as a week without any food to cook. She had one goat, but was carefully saving it unless she needed money to pay for a sickness or death. “I was losing hope. I had too many problems. I couldn’t sleep at night. I used snuff to keep my mind away from my trouble.”
Since she joined CLM, she began receiving the food allowance, about $7 per week. She has received two goats, and she will have at least fifteen birds – a combination of chickens and turkeys – by the end of this month. She has now begun to dream.
She wants is to become a “grandanm.” That’s a word used for a wealthy woman. To Jésula, that means owning a cow, goats, and land to build a house on. She also wants to be able to sign her name. She dreams of being a respected member of her community.